Racial Diversity in Canadian Publishing – Does it Exist?
I feel I should start this post with a disclaimer – I am a reader. I review and chat books here for fun as an unpaid hobby, but at heart my interactions with books are solely as a reader. I know almost nothing about the publishing industry and even less about the situation in Canada.
Yesterday I posted my recap of BookCampTO and the various sessions that I attended and what I took from them. I really enjoyed finally being able to attend an event like this in Canada. Previously with living in Charlottetown there just weren’t many opportunities and so the only conferences I had attended were Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention in 2010 and 2011. After BEA this year I posted a number of discussions on equity and diversity both in terms of who attended the events, in terms of what was available and pushed at the event, and also, after reading about it more, about how diversity in the jobs affects diversity of the titles.
While attending the session on Women in Publishing on Saturday I couldn’t help but also think about minorities in publishing and in published books in Canada, and how so much more is needed in these areas. When I mentioned this later on during the after party to someone who had presented in another session he simply laughed and turned away – why is this? I’ve heard numerous times that Canadians just aren’t willing to talk about issues of diversity, and I find that to be true. We love to flaunt how multicultural we are and celebrate that, but when it comes down to actual studies and statistics of our policies and offerings, as a country, we seem to be quite silent.
For example, in the United States the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults performed a study on the variety of lists that libraries use in creating their collections and she studied a number of factors including gender, class, and race. Has something similar been done in Canada? I want to see a study of all of the books published and the breakdown on these factors. I also think we simply need to talk about how a lack of diversity in the industry affects the lack of diversity of titles being published, and even just acknowledge the lack of diversity that is published.
One article that I really loved on this topic is Zetta Elliott‘s Navigating the Great White North: Representing Blackness in Canadian Young Adult Literature. In the article she discusses what it means to never see yourself in literature and some of the statistics in Canada. Does anyone have any other great links to share? Again, as I noted above, I am rather on the fringe of the publishing industry so perhaps these studies have been created and perhaps you know more – if so please share!
So I close with a plea: Dear Canadian book community; please join me in talking about racial diversity and equity, and let’s see what we can do to improve it. Let’s see what we can do to get more diversity published, and how we can get a wider range of people out at literary events in the city.
And a plan: I would love to get publishers cooperation in gathering statistics. I’d like to get information on diversity of books published during 2012 to compile for informational purposes. I am fully prepared to do all gathering and analysis, if publishers would be willing to send data… A pipe dream? Perhaps, but I’ll keep dreaming and scheming!